Axed apples sour villagers

An apple a day couldn't keep the doctor away from trees at the end of Alden Street.
Marie Havenga
Aug 14, 2013

Dr. Brad Masse, who lives immediately east of the Alden Street park, said he grew tired of apples landing in his yard from two trees growing on the adjacent public property. He also said the trees blocked his view of the waterfront.

The dentist took matters into his own hands and trimmed the trees several weeks ago.

No matter which way you slice it, that move caused controversy.

A neighbor said her family eats the apples from the trees, and she fears the trees may die because they were “butchered” during the growing season. Another neighbor said the trim job looks awful and Masse had no right to cut them.

Joyce Verplank Hatton — who lives in the Cote la Mer condominiums, immediately west of the trees — said it was a horrible hack job.

"I hope he leaves them alone in the future because he obviously doesn't know what he's doing," she said.

Masse said he received permission from Village Manager Chris Burns to do the pruning. Burns said she did not give him permission and is upset that a resident took it upon himself to hack up village trees.

“Man, these things were dropping apples all over the yard,” Masse said. “It was a big gnarly mess over there. Nobody sprays the apple trees for worms. They're just kind of mangy looking.”

Masse said village staff trimmed the trees two years ago, but has been neglecting upkeep on the public street end. Masse said he often pulls weeds and cleans up the area.

“When I called, they said they don't have it in the budget this year (to trim the apple trees)” Masse said. “(Burns) said go ahead and trim them.”

Burns said she has documented all of the conversations she has had with Masse. The manager said that, on July 15, she told him it was not the proper time of year to trim trees.

Burns then told Masse that she would talk with Village Public Works Director Roger Belknap about the trees and get back to him.

“I had not even had a chance to contact Roger yet and less than an hour later I got a call from a neighbor that (Masse's) out there trimming those trees,” Burns said. “I did not give him permission to trim those trees.”

Burns said Masse had called her several times and filled out a complaint form prior to the incident.

“He said, 'I pay a lot of money in taxes and it's blocking my view of the sunset,'” Burns recalled. “I told him those trees weren't on our radar and we hadn't budgeted to trim them this season.”

Also on July 15, Masse said he was going to trim the trees and send the village the bill. Burns said she told him she would not pay it. According to the manager, Masse then asked about trimming the trees and not sending a bill.

“I said, 'No, I have to talk to our (Department of Public Works) crew,'” Burns said. “Within an hour ... (Masse) was out there with a saw just whacking away at the trees. He proceeded to leave everything behind.”

Belknap said it took four DPW crew members two hours to clean up the limbs and branches.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.



I would be delighted to buy the village a nice Weeping Willow to replace the apple tree. Someone in this story seems, well, you know............maybe a bit egotistical is the nicest way I can put it.


Please research the history of these apple trees and this special person who has actually violated some laws and an agreement with the Village. Tax dollars have been spent on these trees and also on behalf of the fine Doctor just to settle this issue, however it does appear that the fine Doctor still has an issue.
All anyone needs too do, is take a small walk along the Village Bike Path going East and see what damage can be done to nature and to public property. When the actions of a view threatens the rights of the majority, cutting trees down and approaching public property cannot be justified or permitted, mostly when it is a contractor.


...It blocked his view of the sunset...The rich can get away with anything. if this would have been done by someone without money they would have been arrested for distruction of public property! Remove "Dr." and sub "local teen" in the article. Why isn't he being thrown in jail and fined!

Michael Johnson

Surely this is action can be fined since the property does not legally belong to him. If he does not "own" the trees, he cannot take the matter into his own hands and must follow local laws to redress his grievances. If those trees die, and he had the right to do what he did, then I have the right to plant new ones in their place. And I will, Dr. Masse.


Yep, the rich can do what they want. It is not right though. He should not have touched the trees. I bet the trees were there before he ever moved in. Should have thought about that then. Blocking his view of the sunset? Oh please! If its really that bad, move. He should be sent a bill for damage done and fined.


I have to wonder; Why weren't the Police called when Village Manager Chris Burns was first informed of the "Destruction of Public Property" was taking place? I think that City Officials are looking at this through tinted glasses in that trees are looked at as something lesser than a fence, gate, or sign that might be bothersome to some people; So would they be justified in damaging or removing them because they don't like them for whatever reason? If someone did do destruction to these or really any item on Public Property wouldn't Police investigate and try to arrest those suspected of doing the "Malicious Destruction"? If Masse is not held accountable for his actions; What kind of message does this send to the rest of the citizen's? Can they also go out and change, dismantle, remove, or destroy anything they want because it may bother them in some way expecting not to be held accountable or arrested? Some people need to wake-up and see reality.

Erin Grimard

I think village should look into criminal charges and send him a bill for the 2 hrs worth of work the four employees that had to clean up his mess.

Back to the Wall

How close to the property boundaries are the trees? Were the branches overhanging the line, creating some type of tresspass? Was the village maintaining a nuisance or not remedying an unhealthy or blighted condition by allowing fruits of its property to decompose on someone's home turf? He pays inflated taxes for having a view of the water. Is anyone proposing a tax rebate to make up for the obstructed view?

Past the odor of rotten apples, I see someone standing up for his personal property rights.


I love how all of you assume this guy is rich... people love to pile on the abuse towards people when they are jealous.

It's a small apple tree. put things in perspective and relax a bit. A small hand slap is all that's called for.


Does this mean I can extinguish the street light that shines right into my bedroom? I've hated that light ever since I moved into my house. Maybe now I can take things into my own hand and abolish it forever!!! Hmmm, thinking about it...after all, I have "property rights" to stick up for and
for "a small hand slap" I could rid my bedroom of that blinding light...liking the idea more and more...


How does anyone really think they would have the right to do such a thing?

There are several things around my town and home that I may like to change ... it does not automatically give me the right to do so.

Can I install an electric fence along the edge of the bike path to keep the dogs and kids off my lawn?

Can I build speed bumps in the road in front of my house to keep people from driving dangerously fast by my home?


To Christopher..obviously you whatever you want...and expect just a "small hand slap"....screw all the people who enjoy the bike path and screw all the people that drive by your house...just like I can now screw all the people who like the street light and use it as a reference point to's all about you!!!


The real crime here is that four DPW workers took two hours to pick up a few branches.


That thars funny.


I think the trees look great. They will fill in and be trimmed. The people of Spring Lake should be more concerned that the Village could not afford to trim these two trees this year. His reasons were lame but if he were a volunteer and did that he would get appreciation.


They are apple trees not topiaries. I have no concern that the Village could not trim them. I am also not concerned that they are not trimming the thousands of other trees in the Village that do not need to be trimmed. I believe the doctor's right to trim the tree ended at his property line.


These trees have been whacked not trimmed. Please drive down there (preferably at sunset) and decide for yourself--they will not "fill in". It certainly takes arrogance and entitlement to think that you can destroy public property because it interferes with what you think you are "entitled" to.


Well, how do you like them apples? Maybe the public should do some yard work on his property?


Gentle readers: Be aware that retired Dr. Masse regularly donates his time to provide free services to people who otherwise have no access to dental care. Wow. Sounds like a horrible person!
Get off your collective high-horse folks. Save your editorial vitriol, and use that potential energy to go volunteer - like Dr. Masse - in this community.


Just because he volunteers in the community that exempts him from following the same protocols that the rest of us have to follow?

Your reasoning is flawed vw4kw....doing some good does not negate the bad. If the trees were not on his property he had no right to mutilate them and he should be held accountable the same way any other citizen would be. Nice guys don't go around breaking the rules and acting like they're above reproach.


"Thou doth protest too much, me thinks." Your vitriol (and others') suggests to me that you likely ought to be tending to your own, ahem... gardens. I didn't say he was nice. I said he admirably demonstrates volunteerism - and you might do the same with your time versus wasting it jack-leg editorializing.


"Thou doth protest too much, me thinks."

I protest too much? I made one comment in response to your ludicrous statement that because the good doctor volunteers in the community he should somehow get a pass when it comes to overstepping his bounds related to unapproved tree trimming.

"I didn't say he was nice. I said he admirably demonstrates volunteerism"

No, you didn't, you implied it and your inability to stay on topic and attempt to deflect from the topic at hand (hacking up trees that don't belong to him) by bringing up a positive trait in this person, that he volunteers, somehow makes what he did less egregious?

As for the rest of your post....over the years I have volunteered multiple times when the opportunity arose and for the record this is a public forum where people come to offer opinions. If you're going to do that then you should realize that opens you up to other folks opinions that may not necessarily agree with yours....I also do tend to my own garden, but it's dark outside as I write this so while I wait for next light I spend sometime online keeping up with what's going on in my community.

For the record I have no idea what Jack-leg editorializing is.....


Having a lot of experience with apple trees, they are a high maintenance tree, messy, and require deep annual pruning to keep from getting terribly out of shape, over-grown, and unhealthy. They are no longer appropriate trees in this current setting, especially if the Village no longer tends to them, and although I'm sure they are pretty in the spring, really should be replaced with a variety of tree that would be more suitable for this location.


I don't care if he's Dr Albert Schweitzer. This called vandalism. Vandalism is against the law. Where are the police?


The police are sitting at the Holiday Inn entrance pointing their radar guns at people coming over the bridge, as usual.


Lanivan....thank you for your informed comment.

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